In my last blog on Megan Stack’s brilliant book I said that I was at one with Megan’s views on the Middle East until I read her chapter on Saudi Arabia, where I lived and worked for 12 years. Her article is off-target. Not by a lot – but definitely off. And what if all her articles are a little off-target?
Maybe I consider her article off-target because I look at it through a male prism – and she looks at it through a female prism. Certainly females in Saudi Arabia are not afforded the privileges that Western females enjoy. They are not allowed to drive, and in public they are asked, but not forced, to be veiled. And increasingly, young women are not veiled, and even those who are throw the veil back in the shopping malls and supermarkets.
Male and female life is segregated, but there are Universities and Hospitals and professional career paths for women. Inside the ARAMCO complexes unveiled Saudi women are employed, not just as secretaries and waitresses, but as graphic artists, HR managers and engineers.
And if you think that the average Saudi woman is repressed here are two personal anecdotes.
I was asked to help a male graduate trainee to prepare an important Powerpoint presentation after office hours. About half an hour into overtime he had a call from his young wife who told him if he wasn’t home in an hour his dinner would go in the bin, and he would be locked out. He didn’t go home in time, and she carried out her threat.
I was in a meeting with a Saudi Engineering Superintendent discussing a £300 million project when the phone rang. What was obviously a female voice was screeching on the other end of the phone. When he put the phone down he said, sheepishly . . . “I have to go home, my wife has found a leak in the bathroom.” $300 million project abandoned while he went home and fixed the leak in the bathroom.
I don’t mean to trivialize the situation of females in Saudi Arabia – but when I compare Saudi women walking elegantly around the malls and supermarkets in stilleto heels, well cut black abayas, a chiffon scarf loosely around their heads, and an expensive bag slung casually on their shoulders, with Western women inside the compounds in thongs, ragged shorts that show the cheeks of their arses, and crop tops that show their underwear, I know which, as a man, I prefer.
If every man in this Western Global village is a liar, then so is every woman who dresses like a tart while insisting she is a lady.
The veiling of women is a tribal custom that is dying out, and is not a requirement of the Holy Q’ran. The Q’ran (and The Bible) merely say that women should go forth modestly. There is nothing modest about strident Western feminists demanding their rights while retaining their privileges.
As I said in my last article the West simply does not understand the people of the Middle East and their steadfast faith and deeply held beliefs. As a friend of mine said, “They write backwards, they read backwards – and they think backwards.” He probably meant it as an insult, but in his naivety he was highlighting Rudyard Kipling’s “East is East and West is West – and never the twain shall meet.”
For Western adultlescents (a.k.a. Charlie Hedbo) to mock their deeply held beliefs is insulting and insane. And for women to expose and flaunt themselves is just as insulting, and insane – and both forms of mockery invite retaliation.
If you want authentic insights into the Middle East then read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. You can preview it at:
and download it if you have a Kindle.
If you prefer a real book order the paperback direct from my publisher